This blog is designed to highlight the paddling opportunities within South Dakota, mainly within a 50-mile radius of Sioux Falls. While Sioux Falls is far from the adventure of coastal regions, there is a certain satisfaction in utilizing the available waterways to observe weather, water conditions, and the landscape along the shoreline. In addition, there is a wealth of animal life on the waters of small South Dakota lakes, rivers, and creeks, including geese, ducks, pelicans, great blue heron, egrets, hawks, owls, perching birds, deer, raccoons, and beaver. Eagles, fox, and coyote are also sometimes spotted.

The sites described are places where I have kayaked over the past few years, mostly in South Dakota but sometimes including locations in Iowa and Minnesota. One of the best sources of information on the accessibility of small lakes is the South Dakota Atlas and Gazetteer, the large map book of South Dakota. Lakes with a public access are generally identified by a boat symbol marking the location of a launching site on public land.

You will notice the menu of paddling locations on the right side of the blog. Each of the postings is linked to one of the areas, and my intention is to provide a continuing review of the places where I paddle. Perhaps these narratives will help readers select waterways of interest to them. Please feel free to offer a comment regarding any of my postings; I would welcome the dialog.

I also maintain a companion blog that describes hiking opportunities within the Sioux Falls area. You can access that blog at:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Loss Lake - May 2010

We are having a string of beautiful days here on the northern plains, days not to be wasted with my part-time job of editing school accreditation reports. After returning yesterday from a trip out to Grass Lake, I just left the kayak on the car in anticipation of another excursion today.
By 8:00 this morning, I had arrived at the public access point at Loss Lake, a small and secluded body of water located west of Sioux Falls, about 15 miles west on Highway 42 and then 2.5 miles north on Highway 19. There is an inconspicuous sign along the east side of Highway 19 pointing down a dirt road; about .5 miles on, there is a well developed lake access area with a dock, boat ramp, fishing pier, vault toilet, and ample parking.
When I arrived, the lake was deserted, as is almost always the case when I arrive at area waterways, especially on weekday mornings. There was just a light wind blowing, the skies were clear, and the temp. was about 70 degrees.
Loss Lake is really a small prairie lake that is surrounded by low hills. The shoreline is elevated a few feet along most of the perimeter, with some banks extending up 10 or 12 feet and other banks only 2-3 feet. There are trees along a segment of the southern shore; but for the most part, the shoreline has only an occasional tree to break the landscape. On one part of the lake, a bay extends back for a few hundred feet and normally is ringed by marsh reeds and nesting ducks and geese. The water is quite high now, however, and those reeds have yet to emerge.
I did not see any mammal wildlife today. There were quite a few pelicans out on the water, and the sound of them taking off and landing was the dominant sound that I heard. Otherwise, there were some ducks and geese about and some perching birds on the bushes and reeds along the shoreline.
The water was as clear as it seems to get on this type of lake, and I could see detail on the bottom at 4 feet. I looked over the side of the kayak at one point and saw a big turtle swimming along about 2 feet under the surface. There were several schools of small, minnow-like fish that flashed by me as I slid along in clear and shallow water. The presence of these schools of little fish probably account for the pelicans that were hanging around together.
There are high cut banks to look at, large boulders along the eastern shore, and the old hydroplane racing booth slowly deteriorating, also on the eastern shore, directly across the lake from the public access area. After about an hour, I had finished my paddle around the shoreline of the lake and had arrived back at the “put-in.” To my astonishment, two large pick-up trucks arrived with an older guy in each one ready to do some fishing off the pier. After I had my kayak on the car, I strolled over to the pier for a chat with these guys, and asked them what they knew about the history of the lake. One of the guys was from the area, and he told me what he remembered about the hydroplane races that took place on Loss Lake back in the 1940s and 50s. I was glad to have that story confirmed. As I paddled past the old command booth this morning, I thought about what it must have been like 50 or 60 years ago with all the excitement and noise of racing hydroplanes and spectators yelling out their encouragement to the drivers.
The guy from the area told me that the attraction of Loss Lake was the depth of water and that there was very little “winter-kill” among the fish species. I saw a speckled fish swimming very near me off the southern shore, so close that I think that I could have caught it in a net. I asked the guy what types of fish were in the lake, and he rattled off half a dozen names. I have no idea what type of fish I was looking at, just that it was a speckled fish that wasn’t moving too fast.
Loss Lake is not the greatest body of water in the area for checking out the wildlife. Also, the only shade is under the banks when the sun is low on the horizon. It is a place that I like to revisit each year, but once a year is enough for me.

1 comment:

Shawn Vuong said...

Hi Professor Heath. Great Blog! I am a student at USD, and I've been thinking about getting into Kayaking for a while now. I've been looking at the ads for kayaks and just have been thinking that it looks like tons of fun.

I've asked around, and nobody I know has any kayaking experience, and I don't know the first thing about it. I was wondering if you would be so kind to give me some tips on how to get started?

Is there a place I can rent a kayak for a day, and try kayaking out to see if I enjoy it?

If you get a chance can you please email me?